Thursday 18 September 2014

Charities hope you'll let them keep sending fliers

They and VWOs seek to keep fund-raising channel via mailers open
By Lester Hio, The Straits Times, 17 Sep 2014

CHARITIES and voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) sending flier inserts with phone or utility bills are now relying on people not to opt out of receiving them so that this channel of fund-raising remains viable.

SingTel and Singapore Power, the only two of nine telcos, banks and utility companies checked with that carry mailers for charities, said they would give their customers the option of not receiving such appeals.

Since July 2, companies, including charities, have had to seek permission from individuals to send unsolicited marketing materials or fund-raising appeals.

As charities piggyback on the contact lists of companies which send out their fliers, they are dependent on them to obtain the requisite permission.

The Personal Data Protection Commission issued these clarifications, among others, last Thursday on how the Personal Data Protection Act relates to organisations in the social, health-care, education and photography sectors.

"If it's a blanket opt-out option for all third-party services, then we will be affected," said an Assisi Hospice spokesman.

"Hopefully, customers can have the option to differentiate the type of third-party information they wish to or wish not to receive - for example, a choice to opt out of marketing but not community service materials."

She added that a few hundred thousand people receive the mailers each time.

Other charities sending mailers this way include Touch Community Services and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation.

A Singapore Power spokesman said new customers can opt out of getting such inserts through e-mail, the telephone or in person when signing up for utility services.

SingTel has a portal on its website through which new and existing customers can specify the mailers they still want to receive and those they want to opt out of.

"VWOs and other businesses do have their materials inserted in our bills for a fee, and customers who do not wish to receive them can opt out," said a SingTel spokesman.

The Straits Times understands that the handling fee for each insert is about five cents. Charities can run several thousand to over a million of these inserts.

Charities depending on such services as part of their fund-raising efforts may now have to work at persuading people to keep them.

Salesman Francis Tan, 46, said: "I chose to opt out, since I always ignore them. This way, at least they won't be wasting paper sending them out."

Opt-out option for bill inserts applies to charity organisations: PDPC
By Irene Tham, The Straits Times, 11 Sep 2014

Charity organisations are allowed to call numbers listed on the Do-Not-Call registry to raise funds but they are not allowed to insert fund-raising mailers in telco or credit card bills without customers' consent, the authorities have clarified in guidelines for the social service sector issued on Thursday.

This is because the contact list belongs to the telcos or banks, and not the charity. Under the Personal Data Protection Act, fully implemented on July 2, companies must get customers' consent to use their personal data for such purposes. The same rule applies to other bill inserts such as marketing brochures on fixed broadband or pay-TV services.

Companies that have used the personal data of customers to send the inserts before the Act took effect can continue to do so. But customers must be allowed to opt out of receiving such marketing, said the Personal Data Protection Commission, which administers the Act.

Consumers can also opt out of receiving calls from charities.

The legislation seeks to provide safeguards against the wrongful collection, use and disclosure of personal data for marketing. It requires organisations to inform individuals of the purpose for collecting, using and disclosing personal data.

Confusion has arisen over whether charity organisations need to seek consent for inserting fund raising mailers in utility bills as charity organisations are exempted from the Do-Not-Call provisions in the Act.

The Commission also issued guidelines for the education and healthcare sectors today, all of which were finalised following a three weeks-long public consultation in May this year.

They aim to provide more clarity on issues such as the collection of personal data from patients seeking medical care and the use of students' personal data for admission to schools. For instance, if a patient has agreed to be referred to a specialist by a general practitioner, the agreement would constitute consent for his doctor to disclose his personal data to the specialist as required for the referral.

The guidelines are intended to help companies comply with the Act. The first set of guidelines for the real estate and telecommunications sectors were released earlier this year.

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